Habakuk 1:12

In the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, Habakkuk 1:12 reads in part: "O my God, my Holy One, you do not die." However, other translations say "we shall not die."( AS, AV ) What accounts for this difference?:

In copying Biblical manuscripts, early Jewish scribes, or sopherim, endeavored to be scrupulously accurate. But later these copyists took certain liberties. For instance, they made eighteen emendations in the Hebrew text of the Scriptures. Such changes were assumed corrections. However, the Masoretes, scribal successors of the sopherim, noted these alterations, making a record of them in the margin of the Hebrew text. These notes are known as the Masorah. One of the Eighteen Emendations of the Sopherim, or tiqqunei sopherim, is to be found in Habakkuk 1:12. Some translations, such as the King James Version, render Habakkuk 1:12 in accord with the Masoretic Hebrew text as changed by the sopherim. Thus, they read, "we shall not die." But the New World Bible Translation Committee conscientiously restored the original reading, which states in address to Jehovah, "you do not die." This rendition is also consistent with the rest of the verse.

According to the King James Version, Habakkuk 1:12 reads:"Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction." Repeated reference is made to God, but with this fact the words "we shall not die," a reference to the people, seem inconsistent. The rendering in the New World Translation poses no such problem, however. It presents a parallelism in phrases, reading: "Are you not from long ago, O Jehovah? O my God, my Holy One, you do not die.O Jehovah, for a judgment you have set it; and, O Rock, for a reproving you have founded it."

Other translations of recent times agree with the New World Translation at Habakkuk 1:12. For instance, An American Translation says:"Art not thou from of old, O LORD, my holy God? Thou diest not!" The Emphasised Bible, by J. B. Rotherham, reads there: "Art not thou from of old, O Yahweh my God, my Holy One? Thou diest not!"

Scholar C. D. Ginsburg made the following significant comments regarding Habakkuk 1:12:"All the ancient records emphatically state that this exhibits the corrected text by the Sopherim and that the original reading was: "Art thou not from everlasting? O Lord my God, mine Holy One, thou diest not." The parallelism plainly shows that this is the correct reading. The address in both clauses is to the Lord who is described in the first clause as being from everlasting and in the second clause as never dying or enduring for ever. The introduction, therefore, of a new subject in the plural with the predicate we shall not die thus ascribing immortality to the people is contrary to the scope of the passage . . . The reason for the alteration is not far to seek. It was considered offensive to predicate of the Lord "thou diest not." Hence " we shall not die" was substituted.- Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrewi Bible, 1897, p. 358.

The Jewish sopherim evidently made their emendation in Habakkuk 1:12 because they thought it blasphemous to associate the idea of mortality with God in any way. However, it is by no means irreverent to say in addressing Jehovah God:"You do not die." In fact, these words strike a Scriptural blow at the modern-day attitude that God is dead and they harmonize with Moses' inspired psalm wherein it is said to Jehovah:"Even from time indefinite to time indefinite you are God."- Ps. 90:1, 2."

Taken from The Watchtower, November 15th, 1966, pp. 703-4: Question from Readers.

Please note that the New International Version reads at this place: "..we will not die." There is no footnote supplied by the NIV explaining that the sopherim emended this passage.
Also, TEV(Good News Bible) paraphrases to make it read "..You are my God, holy and eternal." Obviously, something is lost in this translation!
The New Revised Standard Version of 1989 reads: "You¹ shall not die," and the footnote supplied says: "Ancient Heb tradition: MT We."
The New World Translation Reference edition of 1984 supplies this informative footnote:
"You do not die." Heb., lo'tamuth' . This was the original reading, but the Sopherim changed it to read lo'na·muth', "we shall not die" ; T, " your word [Aram., mehm·rakh' ] will stand (endure) to times indefinite."
("T" stands for the Targums which were the Aramaic paraphrases of parts of the Hebrew Scriptures.)

The New Interpreter's Bible, Vol. VII, p.639, footnote 16 says: "Read with the NRSV's "You shall not die...in the second line of [Hab.] 1:12. It provides a proper poetic parallel to the declaration of God's eternal character in the first line of 1:12. The actual Hebrew text, "We shall not die"..reflected in the NIV, represents one of eighteen instances in which the early scribes preserved the text believed it had been altered to avoid disrespect to the deity. In this case, even the implication that God might die in this assertion to the contrary was considered irreverent."